Grading Saturday's win over the Golden Eagles:
As a first time starter, with a struggling team, Brandon Avalos did an exceptional job. Alabama never had a delay of game flag. His cadence never caused the Tide linemen to jump off sides. Brandon never bobbled a snap, and he never screwed up a hand off.
Ask Tennessee how important that last point is.
Running Backs: A
They ran hard and when tackled, almost always fell forward.
Blocking from the Tide backs was much improved.
Special mention goes to Josh Smith. The walk-on fullback was hardly the biggest back on the field (5-11, 221), but he reveled in his role as lead blocker.
Wide Receivers: B
As a unit they really didn't get to show what they can do yesterday.
It is still very obvious that they struggle getting separation in their routes.
Offensive Line: A
It was nice to see them move the line of scrimmage again. It was also nice seeing linebackers having to dodge their own defensive linemen being pushed back into their lanes.
The big guys were really getting behind their pads and driving Saturday.
Justin Smiley was just crushing people all game.
Special Teams: B+
Very much improved in many aspects.
Although the Southern Miss kickoff return in the fourth quarter was called back due to penalty--and there were several clips and holds--it still shouldn't happen. Especially out of the end zone.
Alabama was in good coverage on the fake punt, the defender just didn't make the play.
Kick coverage was good, but the Tide players are still diving at the ankles too much.
Saturday was punter Bo Freelend's best day. Let's hope he can continue with the bombs. Alabama is going to really need what he can offer the next few weeks.
Defensive Line: A
There was no doubt who was in control of the line of scrimmage.
As a unit, the Tide linemen did a great job keeping the Southern Miss blockers off Bama's linebackers.
They played more vertical Saturday. As a unit they filled the hole and lanes the way a veteran group is supposed to.
The only flaws we spotted, they still do not flatten the running back running routes out of the back field.
And usually it is the job of the outside linebacker to stop screen passes.
Defensive Backs: C+
Alabama's secondary still lets receivers run their routes untouched.
Too often the DBs let themselves get picked without putting a forearm under the other guy's chin.
Saturday the secondary did a much better job in run support.
EDITOR'S NOTE: David Bittinger is a veteran high school coach, now teaching in North Alabama. Each week during football season he'll watch the games with some of his coaching friends, and afterwards pass along some of their thoughts/comments about what they saw.